August 1 2014 Latest news:
Adam Gretton, Health correspondent
Saturday, June 28, 2014
The boss of a private health company has insisted that Norfolk patients will experience a better service when a non-emergency transport service is transferred later this year.
Unions raised their concerns after commissioners decided to award an NHS patient transport service (PTS) contract to ERS Medical after being run by the East of England Ambulance Service for the last eight years.
The private company will be taking over the service, which employs 120 people, from October 1, after offering a cheaper bid for the contract.
Brendan Fatchett, managing director of ERS Medical, said any nervousness about the company taking on PTS in Norfolk was “unfounded”.
“We are an experienced business and we are doing over a million movements of patients a year. We will keep the staff that people have come to know and we will actively engage with the volunteer community,” he said.
Concerns were raised by Unison after some patients were left waiting hours for transport, with some missing appointments for cancer treatment and dialysis, after ERS took over the PTS contract in Essex on May 1.
Mr Fatchett added that he hoped to avoid a repeat of the problems experienced with the PTS transfer in Mid Essex after he claimed that 13 members of staff were withdrawn by the ambulance service at short notice.
He added that he aimed to improve communications and dispatch procedures in Norfolk to reduce waiting times and avoid unnecessary journeys.
“We will call them 24 hours before and ring them when we are on our way. There is a lot of waste when the provider goes to pick up people who are not there because their appointment has been cancelled or they have made alternative arrangements.”
“Non-emergency PTS is a Cinderella service that gets the least investment and management because they [the ambulance service] have to focus on the 999 service and life-threatening incidents .We would not have signed up if we could not add extra value to the service,” he said.
About 115,000 PTS journeys were undertaken in 2013/14 across Norfolk.
ERS Medical, which has its headquarters in Leeds, already provides PTS contracts for the NHS in London, Devon, Yorkshire, the North West, and Essex.
Mr Fatchett added that the company was registered with the Care Quality Commission and had been set stringent performance targets by Clinical Commissioning Groups.
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